Stewardship book targets teenagers
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--Growing economic challenges have led churches to consider teaching stewardship principles to their youth, prompting the release of "Making Change for Students," a study guide for middle and high school students.
The study guide, written by Phil McMichael of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas, and released at the Southern Baptist Convention's annual meeting in Indianapolis, accompanies the book "Making Change: A Transformational Guide to Christian Money Management" by Ken Hemphill, national strategist for Empowering Kingdom Growth.
"I don't know whether we're in a recession," Hemphill told Baptist Press. "The pundits debate that. ... But I know if you've bought gas lately or had to go purchase a gallon of milk, you probably already know that there are some financial crunches that are taking place in the individual family."
Churches, pastors and youth leaders have become "a little more sensitive to the fact that we need to do a better job of teaching all of God's counsel as it relates to money," Hemphill said.
Making Change, released in 2006, provides a biblical overview on how to earn money, how to save it, how to invest it and how to give it away.
"All of those are important principles taught by the Word of God, and the Bible has a lot to say about why God created material resources and why He put them in the hands of His people for the sake of advancing His Kingdom," Hemphill said.
The study guide for students, he said, was written largely in response to state convention leaders who said they saw an urgent need to deal with financial issues in the church at a stage where lifelong habits are being formed -- specifically, in youth groups.
Hemphill said leaders expressed concern that it would be too late to reach the current generation of students on the importance of stewardship once they've gone to college and are in a career because by then they will have developed patterns that are hard to change.
McMichael, a minister of student discipleship, was chosen to write the study guide because leaders in student publishing believed his previous work was cutting-edge and engaging, Hemphill said.
"He's got a very effective and powerful student ministry there at Prestonwood," Hemphill said. "He's well-known by others in student ministry, and we felt like his experience in working with a large number of teenagers in numerous churches and writing materials for them would make him a good candidate to produce this material for us."
The 95-page study guide is designed for a seven-week emphasis. Each week includes a viewer guide to be used alongside the Making Change DVD Hemphill previously produced, small group discussion questions and devotional material that challenges students to think biblically about money.
One question, for example, asks, "How would your life change if your church ceased to exist because of a lack of sufficient funds?" A follow-up question asks students what goals they can set for supporting their local church on a weekly or monthly basis, even considering the fact that at their age they don't typically earn a salary.
The study guide is available to churches and state conventions at auxanopress.com.
In related news, Hemphill mentioned additional updates within the Empowering Kingdom Growth initiative. The study guide and DVD for his latest book, "Eternal Impact," are available now, also debuting at the SBC annual meeting. The DVD, Hemphill said, features Forrest Pollock, pastor of Bell Shoals Baptist Church in Brandon, Fla., who died in a plane crash May 12.
"His family is thrilled that he was able to do that before he went on to be with the King," he said.
Also, Hemphill pointed to a church and a local Baptist association that are models of the EKG process at work. Westside Baptist Church in Flushing, Mich., he said, has been "one of the strongest advocates among the churches in the north for getting engaged in the process of changing the heart, changing the thinking and then providing the resources, which is our EKG three-fold strategy."
Ed Emmerling, Westside's pastor, told Baptist Press that for the past few years his church has been inspired by Hemphill's books to have a broader Kingdom vision rather than focusing only on their own congregation.
They've taken advantage of booklets Hemphill has written, such as "He Is" and "But God," primarily giving them to visitors and then following up to see what people thought of them. In April, the church hosted an all-night youth rally and every hour or so read a portion of He Is to help students gain a deeper understanding of God. Within the following two weeks, two teenagers made professions of faith and were baptized.
The church also recently finished a Making Change study among young adults, and Emmerling noticed that it made a difference.
"As a pastor, it was exciting to me that several of our young families have said, 'We need to have not just a Christmas account or a vacation account, we need to have a Kingdom account so that when there's a need, we can go draw from it to give. When there's an opportunity to go and serve on the mission field for a short-term mission trip or something, there's money there. We don't have to wait and then try to save to do it,'" he said. "That was exciting for me, for them to catch a glimpse of how important it is to be prepared to give in the Kingdom."
The Eastern Louisiana Baptist Association in Walker is organizing a Sept. 7 kickoff rally for a three-phase process called Empowering Kingdom Growth Louisiana.
"We're launching this thing with Dr. Hemphill with a rally on Sunday evening, asking all the participating churches to come be a part in one central location," said Beau Colle, executive assistant for the Louisiana Baptist Convention. "It's for this one association, but we're hoping it jumpstarts the other associations to do the same type of process."
The first phase is called A Kingdom Heart, and it deals with Hemphill's book "EKG: The Heartbeat of God," Colle said.
"When the heart is right in the individuals in the church, then that translates to the heart of the church being right and ready to launch into strategies that are God-ordained," Colle said. "Basically, if your heart's not in it, you're just going to go through the motions. You might be doing some things strategy-wise, but you really don't have your total being in it."
Phase two, he said, is A Kingdom Strategy, based on the Acts 1:8 model of taking the Gospel to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth. Phase three is A Kingdom Commitment, based on Making Change, to help believers fund the strategy that God led them to develop in phase two.
"If God has shown us that He wants us to be doing these strategies and our heart is right, then our pocketbook is going to follow suit," Colle said.
The Eastern Louisiana association has 40 churches, and so far 17 have signed up to participate in the EKG initiative, Colle said.
"We have had about 160 churches individually who have gone through the process [convention-wide], and it has really made a difference in their ministries to varying degrees. You get out of it what you put into it," he added.
Erin Roach is a staff writer for Baptist Press. For more information, visit www.empoweringkingdomgrowth.net.